The Rise of Content Consumption During Covid

By John Licardi  | 

Nationwide lockdowns have rearranged the way many industries are forced to operate. For many, like retail or hospitality, there is the assumption that when things return to “normal,” those businesses will also. In the world of content — be it video or online news subscriptions –the paradigm shift is instead accelerating trends that already existed. Work-from-home and social distancing orders have increased the use of laptops and cell phones for information gathering, socializing, and purchasing. People stuck inside are flocking to their phones and they’re appreciating the content available. This newfound reliance may well shift the digital landscape as the “new normal” becomes just “normal.”

Looking for Information Online
At the onset of lockdowns, Forbes reported that internet use was up 70%, and the use of news apps, according to a report from Adjust, rose 59%. As society at large began to work from home, people began spending even more time online. Broadband data use jumped 47% and searches for information about Covid-19 helped drive web traffic increases. These activities accelerated already existing trends, including the growth of streaming and ad supported video on demand. (See our recent blog about the surge in connected TV use.)

Across all channels and devices, families are becoming more digitally savvy and all signs indicate that these newly adopted habits will continue as lockdowns ease. Neilsen reports that mobile usage in March was up 215% from March 2019. While the pandemic has negatively impacted many businesses, the value of digital publishers has actually been revealed for many new subscribers who will likely continue to pay for that content in the future.

Connecting Online
Generation Z, oft-criticized for being online too often, are now finding that social media is making them feel less lonely, according to a report in Mobile Marketer. Instagram and YouTube help this young set feel less isolated. According to market research firm NPD, social media is providing its users “a connection to the outside world – a lifeline so many are yearning for.” Smartphone use, of course, has surged. Huge upticks in engagement, over pre-pandemic rates on social media, point toward trends that are here to stay.

Working from home has contributed to a big spike in browser and social-media use. Hopping on Twitter or connecting on social media may well have replaced the typical visit to the office watercooler. The pandemic will end, and some of this activity will likely regress, but not to pre-pandemic levels. Marketers should be keen to include social media spots in their marketing mix if they’re not already.

Entertainment Online
Smart phones are powering a lot of video streaming during this time as well, as evidenced by a 75% surge in mobile data usage. At Disney Plus, Hamilton increased downloads by more than 70%. A record-breaking digital debut from feature film Trolls: World Tour points toward an increase even in the purchase of video content. Customer engagement with digital video services like VUDU and networks’ digital apps are also rising steadily. Advertisers and marketers are flocking to these services, as viewing surges on screens of all sizes, from smartphones to smart TVs. The future of entertainment, at least in the near term, is happening not only in the living room, but on nearly every phone.

Whether all of these trends continue in a post-pandemic world remains to be seen, but considering them as a whole is useful for advertisers. It will be some time before consumers feel comfortable returning to their normal routines around shopping and entertainment, and during that time the positive relationship with digital content will only continue to flourish. Marketers should continue to advertise to customers where they are increasingly spending their time and energy, and remain optimistic about the role of digital information, social media, and entertainment in their lives.

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